Monday, 22 June 2015

Square Enix @ E3 2015

So this is it. The final E3 press conference came down to Square Enix, the legendary developer/publisher that has brought us many, many gaming classics over the years. I can't really remember when Square Enix did a live E3 event prior to this, but I was more than happy to check out what they had going this year. Compared to other press conferences, this event was kind of low key, lacked gimmicks or celebrities, and generally came across as interesting, honest and real. I liked it, and here's the best of what was revealed.



Just Cause 3


In 2002 Avalanche Studios created Just Cause. Playing like an over-the-top version of GTA, the game was good but didn't exactly blow me away. That said, its sequel was a far better game, as Just Cause 2 ramped up everything that made the original good, while correcting the mistakes previously made as well. The result was a batshit insane game that still holds up even today, especially when played on the PC. Though Avalanche are also developing the upcoming Mad Max game, they've somehow found the time and resources to make Just Cause 3. Going by the gameplay shown, it looks like Just Cause 2 turned up to 11.

The plot to Just Cause 3 revolves around a slightly aged Rico, the protagonist of the series. After his homeland of Medici is taken over by the fearsome dictator General Di Ravello, Rico returns take to take out the bad guy in typical Rico fashion- with guns and bombs while surfing on a passenger planes wing. Gameplay looks similar as to what we've seen before in the series, but with the grappling hook now able to attach to two objects at once, and the ability to tear objects, cars and buildings apart with it, the possibilities are endless. There's also a snazzy wing-suit to use in Just Cause 3, as though some of the best aspects of Just Cause 2 were had when parachuting, the wing-suit will no doubt amplify those moments ten fold. As long as it retains the insane epicness of this trailer, I'll gladly sink a few hours of my life into it.

New Nier Project


In 2010 developer Cavia released the game Nier for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Nier is an usual title in many ways, which begins with it actual existence. You see, Nier is a spin-off of the series Drakengard. However, it's a direct sequel to the events that occur in Drakengards 5th ending. Yes, you read that right; Cavia made a sequel to the 5th ending of a game. It's bizarre but it works, and with Nier being a weird mish-mash of various genres, styles and ideas, it was met with a very lukewarm reception critically. For instance, Gamespot gave Nier 5/10. I can't get my head around this, as I genuinely believe that Nier is one of the greatest RPGs ever made, and certainly contains one of the best, most moving videogame stories of all time. Seriously, Gamespot f*cking suck.

But I don't think Nier sold enough to make Square Enix fall over themselves to get a sequel made any time soon. So the big shock from this press conference was the fact that a new Nier title is in the making. This time being developed by Platinum Games but still under the watchful eye of original game director Taro Yoko, the new Nier game doesn't have a full title yet, but it's going to contain three playable characters and also include cameos from characters from the first Nier game. Literally nothing else is known as this point, but alongside the news of Shenmue 3 at the Sony event, also knowing there's a new Nier in the making effectively made my 2015.

Rise of the Tomb Raider


I remember buying a PS1 Magazine years ago because it had a demo for Tomb Raider on the accompanying disc. Like, it's the ONLY reason I bought it. It was a pretty in-depth demo they offered, as from running around, shooting wolves in their wolf faces and solving puzzles, it gave me a good idea of what the real game had. It blew me away, and since buying the original Tomb Raider on the Playstation a mere week after playing that demo, it quickly became a defining game of my childhood. Some of the sequels were shit, but with the 2013 reboot breathing new life into the franchise, I was really looking forward to what came next. The next title in the franchise is called Rise of the Tomb Raider, and I gotta say, the gameplay trailer does nothing for me.

I kind of had this feeling during my play through of 2013's Tomb Raider, but when watching Rise of the Tomb Raider all I could think of was that it looked like an Uncharted rip-off. From linear exploration, QTE segments and scripted action scenes up the arse, it just didn't come across as impressive to say the least. Then again the tail end of the gameplay demo looks promising, as it shows locations that feel a bit more Tomb Raider-like, which hopefully will go hand-in-hand with gameplay that is a bit more free-form too. I know I'm being cynical here, but I can't get excited about what they showed. Sorry.

Kingdom Hearts 3


Kingdom Hearts 3 was confirmed to be in development back in 2013, and considering it has been a decade since Kingdom Hearts 2, this must be the longest wait for an already guaranteed sequel ever. Yeah, there have been loads of prequels and spin-offs released since, but I want Kingdom Hearts 3 dammit! This year at E3 we finally got a pretty decent look at gameplay, as well as a snippet of some cut-scene focusing on what Kingdom Hearts does best- confusing plot and god-awful original  characters!

Beyond the really crappy cut-scene on show, gameplay looked exactly how I wanted it to look. It essentially looks like they took the typical Kingdom Hearts combat system and gave it a new coat of paint. I'm sure the game will have a new game changing mechanic in it like Kingdom Hearts 2 did with allowing Sora to change forms, but what we're seeing here is very much a typical Kingdom Hearts game, and that's fine. I'm just happy to see it finally it in some kind of playable form. Also, I'm loving the sneak peak at Sora fighting the Titan, Lythos, from the film Hercules. As long as they offer a crapload of Disney worlds for us  to explore, let us fight against new and exciting bosses and give us gameplay in-line with the series, I'm happy.

Hitman


I've been a huge fan of the Hitman series for many years now. I've loved every entry in the series apart from Hitman: Absolution, the most recent game released. Compared to how the series was originally approached, I found Absolution to be incredibly linear, far too easy to run-and-gun through and very limiting in terms of how you could take our your targets. It was a Hitman game for the younger gamers out there I guess, because it just wasn't for me. I thought I left the series behind me by this point, but after Square Enix unveiled their latest Hitman title, I'm cautiously optimistic about how it might turn out.

Simply titled Hitman the game is being hyped as a return to form for the series. Apparently throwing out the bottlenecked level design from Absolution and instead going for something a little more like an open-world game, the developers are keen on once again giving the player an array of choices in terms of how to approach and take out your target. All we have to go by is a CGI trailer though, so while I'll hold off on any proper judgement until I see in-game footage, it'll take a lot for Square Enix to dig the Hitman franchise out of the pit it found itself in after Absolution.

There you have it folks, that's our coverage of E3 complete! If I had to pick the three best press conferences of E3 2015 I'd have to say it would be those of Sony, Square Enix and Ubisoft. Regardless though, this E3 was one of the best I've ever experienced. Personally, the announcements of Shenmue 3 and a sequel to Nier have stirred an excitement in me about gaming I haven't felt in years. How about you? Feel free to pop over to our Facebook to let us know! I hope you enjoyed our coverage of E3, and don't worry, next year I'll be here to give you a rundown of what went down at E3 2016. Granted I only get 3 hours of sleep a night during the week E3 is on, but hey, you're worth it.
Denis Murphy


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